It’s often said you can’t understand what someone is going through until you walk a mile in their shoes. So when U.S. Senator Chris Murphy decided he wanted to learn about the challenges facing homeless men and women in his community, he did just that. In late December, Murphy spent a day shadowing “Nick”–he requested his real name not be printed–a 40-year-old man who had spent six months on the streets. Murphy met Nick early in the morning, when his shelter asks residents to leave for the day. After wandering the neighborhood and briefly seeking relief from the cold at a local Dunkin’ Donuts, the duo went to the library, where Nick spent a few hours applying for jobs and responding to emails.
Throughout the day, Murphy learned that despite Nick’s rough start in life — his dad was a drug addict, and Nick has struggled with addiction, as well — he was able to graduate high school and work as a salesman for many years. He only became homeless when he was laid off and lost his home last year. With more than 20 years of work experience, you might think it would be easy for Nick to find a job. But as Murphy learned, the cycle of poverty is vicious. “He can’t get a job without a permanent address and can’t get a permanent address without a job,” Murphy told ThinkProgress.
After having lunch at a soup kitchen — beans, hot dogs and canned corn — Murphy accompanied Nick to an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting, then killed some time until they could line up at the shelter to wait for a bed. “As sobering as a day like this is, it’s slightly inspirational to hear somebody who’s been through what these guys have been through still believing there’s better days coming up soon,” Murphy told the New Haven Independent. Maybe the Senator’s influence–and his new experience with homelessness–can help those better days arrive.